The 2010 Olympian has been playing the drums since he was a teenager but this will be the first time he’s played in front of such a large audience. Hundreds of people are expected to gather at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for Light Up The City, described as the largest and most sophisticated fireworks show ever produced in Canada.
Hudec’s band, which was put together specifically for the event, will play a live set of covers that will include country and rock classics.
“I’ve no idea what to expect. I’m a little bit scared!” said Hudec, who was the top Canadian alpine skier on the World Cup circuit last season. “When I started playing drums it was basically just in a church band but there could be anywhere from 100 people to over 1,000 there this weekend.“I’ve obviously not always had much time to practise during the ski season and some years I’ve taken a break from playing but WinSport needed some entertainment for the fireworks and we all just kind of reached out to each other to form a band. After our first practice together it was a pretty good (sound).”
The Calgary Stampede, billed as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,’ is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer. Light Up The City fireworks, presented by TransAlta, is taking place simultaneously in five locations across Calgary: Stampede Park, Heritage Park, Elliston Park, McCall Lake and at Canada Olympic Park, which was the main competition venue during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
Hudec’s band will provide part of the entertainment at Canada Olympic Park from 9-11 p.m. on July 6, 7 and 8. A 12-minute fireworks show against the backdrop of the iconic ski jump tower – which is being synchronized to music simulcast by radio stations QR77, Q107 and Country 105 – will take place sometime between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. If all goes well, Hudec’s band will also play sets prior to the fireworks displays on July 13, 14 and 15.
Hudec’s band – currently using the working title of ‘Homegrown’ – comprises buddies Dan Lefebvre (guitar and vocals), who is WinSport’s director of education and sport development, Terry Slave (piano and accordion) and Joey Pringle (guitar and vocals).
“We will be doing covers – pretty much everything,” Hudec said. “I’m going to try to throw in some country just because it’s Stampede, but we’ve been playing everything from Foo Fighters to Colin James and we even had one Elvis (Presley) song – Little Sister.”
For Hudec, 30, music has always had to take a back seat to his globetrotting career as an alpine skier.
“The first real job I had was bagging groceries at Safeway at 14. That summer I saved all my money and bought a set of drums off a guy who used to ski race,” Hudec said. “He has a band that plays at the BoZo Cup (an annual ski fundraiser held in memory of former national-team member Rob Bosinger). It was a tradition that we would come to play with him every year.
“Obviously there were a few years when I had a break (from playing) or didn’t have much time. But even playing in the church band, I definitely had to learn to deal with the pressure of playing in front of people. You learn not to screw up and if you do, to just keep going. It was a good learning curve for this.”
Hudec made his World Cup debut in 2002 and the 2011-12 season was one of the best of his career. His victory in the World Cup downhill in Chamonix, France, in February was part of a historic 1-3-5 finish for Canada – the top result for the Canadian men’s alpine team since 1994.
“This past year was really fun,” Hudec said. “The night before I won in Chamonix I went out to see a couple of friends. I didn’t drink and I was out of the bar by 10 at night but I’d gone to meet a Canadian guy and he was in a band. He got me up on stage and I played the drums the night before I won. That was pretty (special). After I won I went back that night and ended up playing eight or nine songs.”
Hudec said he’ll be a lot more nervous on Friday than he would be in the start gate at a World Cup race.
“Hopefully I don’t get booed off stage,” he joked. “We’re getting there – every practice it’s better. It should be a lot of fun.”
For more information about the Light Up The City celebrations at Canada Olympic Park, click here.
Watch a video about Hudec practicing and getting ready for the Stampede, click here.